Vendor Feature: City Girl Events

When I first came across Shar of City Girl Events while scrolling Instagram, I knew she would be an amazing vendor to share with my JHP brides and grooms. We sat down over Zoom last week and I had so much fun getting to know her and hear her story.

Shar has enjoyed a long and fruitful career as the mastermind behind City Girl Events, planning weddings throughout Chicago and beyond. I was so impressed by her wedding planning philosophy, but you don’t have to take my word for it! Shar’s own words are below:

City Girl Events, what’s your story?

12 years ago I got started as “Events by What’s Her Name” because my first name is Sharokina and nobody knew how to spell that. I started out planning events for people I knew, mostly family and friends, and a lot of the asked me if I every considered doing event planning as a business. I always responded, “No way!” After all, I was supposed to be the VP of Marketing by the time I turned 40, right?

But then I thought, “You know, why not?” At the time, my husband and I thought it was a good time to try. We had no kids and no mortgage. I was 24, and I had no idea where it would take me! Now, 12 years later, it’s been such an amazing road.

Good bad, indifferent, pandemic…you name it.

Tell us about the types of events you serve

A lot of my business is in weddings, but I do serve few social gatherings as well. I do some corporate and nonprofit work as well. So I get to do some conference planning and travel to those events, too. Now, I’ve switched over to planning online conferences as well.

I have to be honest about how my role would function, planning an online conference. There’s still a lot to do–facilitating speakers, all the preparation ahead of time. It was an interesting practice to go through and I realized that event planners are really needed in the digital space, too.

What kinds of weddings to plan?

Throughout my years at City Girl Events, I began with a lot of banquet hall and hotel weddings. As my business grew, I did a mix of luxury and hotel weddings, as well as unique spaces in the city. Being named City Girl Events, people thought for a while that we only did events in downtown Chicago, but that’s not true! Sometimes we work in the suburbs and destinations further afield, too!

As far as types of weddings, I’m very focused on having a personal relationship with my clients. I’m helping them plan the most important day of their lives. We have to get along! I’m thankful to have a really great connection with so many of my clients. It’s a very sensitive thing for these couples to plan their next chapter, whether that’s a luxury wedding downtown, or just a small gathering of their immediate family.

A lot of my couples are very experience-oriented, and think a lot about the experience their guests will have on the day. I feel like most fun weddings are the unique ones. I got to plan a Star Wars wedding a couple of years ago (I admit I’m not a nerd and don’t know much about it), and I got to work with some of the most amazing and creative weddings ever.

Bottom line, I’m up for anything!

Tell us about your planning process.

A lot of my planning is very intuitive and holistic. What I mean by that is that I really want to get to know my couples. One of my go-to conversation starters with couples is, “Help me get to know your love story and who you are.” I want the relationship be based on more than the transactional framework of budget and timelines.

I’m very curious, and I just love getting to know other perspectives and people. I’m learning about them — who they are as a couple and individuals, as well as how they got engaged. Then they can tell me about their vision and what they’re planning for their wedding.

From there, the process I use at City Girl Events is a lot of like all of the dating apps we have these days. (BTW, I met my husband before dating apps were a thing. We met in “creepy mode” on an actual website!) Helping couples find the right vendors is kind of like a love match. What I mean by that is I really want my couples to invest in and work with a wedding professional that they have a connection with and whose work they believe in and are drawn to. I want them to feel that every vendor is on their side and will deliver a product or service that really resonates with the couple.

Therefore, it’s my job to get to know the couple and it’s also my job to get to know the wedding professionals I recommend to brides and grooms. And I always recommend based on who’s a good fit for the couple — style, vibes, personality, and then budget. It make me so happy when I’m able to pair couples and vendors and they all just “click.”

I think the pandemic has really humanized the whole wedding planning process. It’s not just checklists and to-do lists anymore. There are real humans behind this process, both couples and vendors, and I work to help my couples and vendors understand that there may be some delays in the process because we’re all working from home and dealing with social distancing guidelines.

What does your process look on the wedding day?

One of the benefits of being a smaller, “boutique” sort of business is that I get to be there on the wedding in almost every case. I have a team of amazing assistants who help me streamline the day or the week of the wedding. They are all so talented! We have a fun — we love giving up our weekends to serve our City Girl Events clients!

What are your top wedding planning tips?

  1. Step back and don’t get so worried about all the minute details. Let’s build your core vendor team first. Once I help them with the vendor team and their timeline, everything else will fall into place. Don’t worry about all of these super detailed checklists on places like The Knot.
  2. This is a tip I give every couple at their rehearsal. If you’re putting a wedding band on, don’t worry if it doesn’t go all they way on because you’re nervous or you had something really salty. It will go on later, trust me.
  3. Kiss for at least five seconds! We want to make sure your photographer has a chance to get that shot of you guys kissing for the first time!
  4. We don’t need to do 3-5 interviews for each wedding professional in each wedding category. My job is to come in and help them find the perfect photographer, DJ, etc. We do a lot of research beforehand, so when it’s time to do these interviews, we’ll meet with your top choice, and if it’s a love connection, we will book them right then.

What’s your favorite part of working at City Girl Events?

I really love my clients! I’ve been getting on all of these Zoom calls lately and clients come online from a busy day at work, and I’m just like, “Let’s have some fun!” I really love getting them to relax and not stress. Seeing clients take a deep breath knowing that I’m in the corner to help them plan and problem solve their day feels so good. So, you could say my favorite thing about being a wedding planner is helping my clients stress a little less.

BTW, tell us about Sadie!

My dog is on my website! Sadie, our beagle, is very much a part of City Girl Events. When people were able to come into my office before COVID, Sadie was there to greet them at the door. She tried to steal some of the cheese when we put together charcuterie trays for meetings.

She’s like my BFF and coworker. We hang out together all day.

An aside from Josh: I think it’s so cool that Shar has made her puppy part of her brand!

Where can we find you online?

My online home is www.citygirlweddings.com and I’m on Instagram as @citygirlevents. Planning a wedding and want to learn if City Girl Events is right for you? Please reach out via the contact form on my website.